Showdown: Sugar vs. High Fructose Corn Syrup

Indyish Post-Valentine's Monthly Mess: Rejections and Knock Outs

flickr photo: tristanbrand

In round one, table sugar was the bad boy. Empty calories, with no nutritional benefits.

In round two, High Fructose Corn Syrup got heat, because of the perception that it is unnatural, and promotes obesity as well.

In round three, instead of both sugar and HFCS slowly disappearing from products, good ol’ sugar is back in many products that have long used HFCS, a cheaper sweetener derived from corn.

According to a recent New York Times article:

Sugar, the nutritional pariah that dentists and dietitians have long reviled, is enjoying a second act, dressed up as a natural, healthful ingredient.

From the tomato sauce on a Pizza Hut pie called “The Natural,” to the just-released soda Pepsi Natural, some of the biggest players in the American food business have started, in the last few months, replacing high-fructose corn syrup with old-fashioned sugar.

ConAgra uses only sugar or honey in its new Healthy Choice All Natural frozen entrees. Kraft Foods recently removed the corn sweetener from its salad dressings, and is working on its Lunchables line of portable meals and snacks.

Read the entire article…

What you need to know:

So which is better for you – Sugar or HFCS?


Calorically, they are the same. Nutritionally, they are also the same – no nutrients whatsoever.

Although a recent study found trace amounts of mercury in HFCS, they are smaller than what you get from going outside and breathing in exhaust fumes from cars and factory smokestacks.

What to do at the supermarket:

Look for sugar , HFCS, and other synonyms on food labels. You’d be surprised in how many places sweeteners have found a place. In many cases, there is more than one sweetener in the ingredient list. Shy away from products who list sweeteners as one of the first ingredients in the ingredient list. As Pat Crawford of the Center for Weight and Health at the University of California, Berkeley says – “Keep sugar for the desserts”.

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  • Dennis Allio

    A great and concise article. Thank you for helping to reduce the non-scientific nutrition marketing spin.

  • DR

    Lately, I have been reading articles where bloggers/print writers/doctors/etc, have been telling people to choose sugar over HFCS.

    I think that I may have to re-visit those articles and direct the writers to your site.

    You really hit the nail on the head with this:

    So which is better for you – Sugar or HFCS?


  • Matt

    You are right in that both are not good for you; however, if a choice must be made between the two sugar is BY FAR the lesser of two evils even if you just take the fact in how it is broken down by the body and how much it can effect your liver fuction not to mention the link that is being found among HFCS and complictations from diabetes. So ya you are right in this debate but only in the same way as me saying “should i smoke camel lights or marlboro lights?” well i guess i shouldn’e smoke either cause its bad for me.

  • Dave

    For the record, table sugar and HFCS are different from each other chemically, and are even metabolized differently by the body.

    Table sugar is a type of sugar called sucrose. It is made up of one glucose and one fructose molecule held together by a glycosidic bond. HFCS has unbonded glucose and fructose molecules in varying ratios depending on the food. Unlike HFCS, the glycosidic bond in sucrose requires certain enzymes in the body to break it apart, possibly giving the body an additional regulatory step in its metabolism.

    However, some people think the glycosidic bond is broken early in digestion and the glucose and fructose enter the bloodstream as individual molecules, same as HFCS:

    Ultimately though, it doesn’t really matter, they’ll both wreck your health.

  • Corky Boyd

    The reason soft drink manufactures swithched to HFCS was purely and simply cost. The sugar industry through its lobbying efforts, raised prices of US sugar through government price floors and import restrictions until it was triple the world price in the 1970s. Before then, HFCS was more a laboratory curiosity, but when it was found it could sweeten soft drinks for far less than the overpriced sugar, it caught on with the Cokes and Pepsis.

    It is now losing its allure for the same reason. The domestic and world price of corn has skyrocketed because of mandated consumption levels of ethanol for motor fuel.

    Neither sucrose (cane sugar) and HFCS are simple sugars. Both must be broken down by digestive enzymes for the body to absorb them. Fructose, lactose, maltose and glucose are the most common simple sugars and are directly absorbable, usually within 15 minutes of ingestion.

    If the government hadn’t meddled in agricultural pricing, HFCS would never have caught on. For years the sugar growers tried to halt its use.

    Both sucrose and HFCS are equally bad.

    Disclosure: I have no interest in either the sugar or the corn (HFCS) industry. I like to see the market make the rational decisions, not the government. And I like skinny women.

  • a mom
    See the link to article.  They are not processed the same and their results are not the same.

  • cath

    Here’s a great article and it will tell you that fructose are processed –